In 2021  Panel hosted the second Ruritania Prize contest for original short fiction from Central and Eastern Europe. The competition was open to short pieces (between 1000 and 4000 words) of English-language fiction, translated or otherwise, so long as the pieces are previously unpublished. 

The winners of the 2021 Ruritania prize are:

The 1st winner - Andrew Singer, "Split"

The 2nd winner - Eleanor Updegraff, "Marina"

The 3rd place - Paul Harrison, "The Marna Hours"

Honorable Mentions: 

Kerry Tyrrell, "The Life of Oliver Vegh"

Chris Cottom, "Ayla the Apothecary"

The winners will receive money prize and will feature the forthcoming issue 8 of Panel magazine.

The judges for the 2021 Ruritania prize were:

Shel Merlow, the 3rd winner of the 2020 Ruritania prize (Prague)

Jayde Will, a writer and literary translator (Riga)

Duncan Robertson, a novelist and editor of Panel (Budapest)

We congratulate the winners and we thank everyone who submitted.


The Ruritania Prize is a prize for those writing from a place that doesn't exist, English-speakers who are struggling to find their role in a contradictory literary tradition which is simultaneously patronizing and affectionate. Its judges are drawn from a variety of major Central and Eastern European cities, to better reflect the real diversity of the lands in which the Ruritanian romances were (and are) set.


Why The Ruritania Prize?

In 1894 Anthony Hope published The Prisoner of Zenda. Set in the fictional kingdom of Ruritania, it was a swash-buckling adventure that involved mistaken identities in a small Eastern European country. The book, which became a bestseller, spawned a genre, the Ruritanian Romance. These were books and films—sometimes unselfconscious capers, sometimes self-aware parodies—that were set in imaginary countries that were supposed to exist somewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Other notable entries included Frances Hodgson Brunett's The Lost Prince (Samavia), The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (Freedonia) and Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (Zembla).

Ruritanian fiction has always been emblematic of the West's view of Central and Eastern Europe, crowded by small, unstable states that are full of breathless intrigue, unusual customs and ethnic strife. For those of us that inhabit the real places these fictional countries are said to occupy, the genre is a reminder of the misapprehensions and prejudices of the West, as well as the resonant absurdities of life in the East.